The last time Steve and I took a week of vacation was in April 2013.
Since that vacation, our family has grown with the birth of a grandchild and a wonderful son-in-law. We also have buried a child, both of Steve's parents, and our precious dog, Savannah. Needless to say, our life has been a little topsy-turvy. So when we booked a week off for the first week of May, we held our breath hoping nothing would come up until we walked through the door of the condo we rented for the week.
Since our last visit, the condo had been beautifully renovated - but I walked right past all that and stepped out onto the covered porch to see the one thing I hoped had not changed. The minute I stepped out, the sea breeze kissed my cheeks, the seagulls sang a welcome back song and the empty sandy beach beckoned us all to come play. My heartbeat began to slow down and the stress melted away. Finally! Vacation!
One of the reasons we love this place so much is because it's dog friendly. This was the first visit for Joy, our 1 year old and still very much a puppy! She loved the empty beach where she and Sophie could run and chase each other. Sophie, who is 11, seemed to have more energy and appeared to be feeling a little younger near the sea. Joy liked drinking the saltwater - but wasn't sure about those little creatures (sand crabs) crawling on the beach. They took long walks with us and had as much - if not more - fun than we did!
I love to cook and try new things while on vacation. On the way to the island, we stopped by the local farmers' market and purchased locally grown strawberries, baby parsnips and carrots, spinach, sweet onions, chard and radishes. I keep the meals simple and try to incorporate the local ingredients. This year, Steve went freshwater fishing a couple of times and one night we had pan fried bass. There's nothing better than eating freshly caught fish just a few miles from where they were caught.
The only thing scheduled on our visit to Seabrook is sunset. I prepare simple appetizers and we eat and sip on a glass of wine while we watch the sun fill the sky with a palate of pinks, blues and golds as the sun slowly disappears below the horizon. The abundant flocks of pelicans add to the sunset show, diving from the air and scooping up the last meal of the day before the dark hides their prey. It's a spectacular show, directed and choreographed by our loving creator. I often am amazed at the colors of our world. God could have made it all in monochrome and we would never have known the difference, but he chose instead to give us the beautiful colors of flowers, birds, landscapes and glorious sunsets.
This year, I deviated from the routine a bit and decided to experiment with different cocktails while we watched our sunsets. I posted a picture of each cocktail to my Facebook page, and I think my friends and family wondered if all I was doing was drinking on my vacation. Age has deterred me from drinking in excess; I can't stay awake long enough to do it anymore. But I had been saving all these wonderful cocktail recipes with fruits and fresh herbs in them, so this seemed like the perfect time to try a few out. At the end of the week, I concluded that I should probably not give up my day job to be a bartender. Mixology is much way more complicated than cooking.
Sadly, all good vacations must end, but I'm looking forward to next year. Here are a couple of my favorite cocktail experiments of the week. Just mix a batch and enjoy the sunset - even if it's only the one in your backyard.
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie's Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
Mixed Berry Vodka Tonic
4 parts mixed berry basil syrup (recipe to follow)
3 parts vodka
3 parts fresh squeezed lime juice
Stir together syrup, vodka, and lime juice into a pitcher filled with ice cubes until cold. Strain into individual glasses, filling them up about 3/4 full. Top off with tonic water and garnish with basil sprigs.
Mixed Berry Basil Syrup
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
Zest from one lime
1 cup frozen mixed berries, thawed
2 cups packed fresh basil sprigs
In a medium saucepan, stir together all the ingredients over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat a little and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
Pink Grapefruit Margarita
2 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce orange liquor (Triple sec or Cointreau)
1 tablespoon white sugar
Wet the outside rim of a glass with water or lime juice. Roll rim in sugar. Combine juice, vodka and orange liquor in a cocktail mixer filled with ice. Shake well and pour into sugar rimmed glasses.
Cucumber Basil Gin & Tonic
3 ounces gin
2 ounces St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Juice of 1 lime
4 sprigs basil, plus more to garnish
5 or 6 chunks of peeled cucumber
Squeeze the lime juice into a cocktail shaker; add the gin, St. Germain, basil, and cucumber chunks.
Muddle ingredients well, and then add ice.
Shake well, and divide between two glasses. Top with tonic and garnish with basil.